Back in December 2013, I wrote about the phenomenon in churches today of what I call the "terminal visitor" - someone who attends a church pretty regularly and affiliates themselves with a particular congregation, but who for one reason or another doesn't take the step of officially joining. While this person may enjoy the benefits of study and fellowship with a local body, he doesn't commit himself in a way that, as my boys would say, gets a little of his own "skin" in the game. Rather than viewing the church as the beloved bride of Christ, this person seems to regard his local church more as a live-in girlfriend. (You can read that post here: Marry the Girl Already!)
Okay, today's post builds on that earlier post. Let's say you've taken the plunge - you jumped in and "married the girl"/joined your local church. Everything's good, right? Now, we can all just motor along like we have been all along.
We've all heard the story about the man who told his wife that he loved her on their wedding day, then said if anything changed he'd let her know. He was basically saying, "Don't expect me to tell you 'I love you' every day. Don't expect me to give you on-going displays of affection. I told you that I loved you once - don't expect me to do it again. Just trust that I meant what I said, and I'll let you know if anything changes."
We read that story and halfheartedly laugh. It's supposed to be funny. Be really, that story is just very, very sad. We feel sorry for the woman who has bound herself to a lazy, insensitive, apathetic husband. No I-love-you's, no romantic notes, no flowers or chocolates "just because" - whether this man is just stupid or completely selfish, we don't expect this marriage to last.
But that's exactly the kind of spouse most of us are content to be when it comes to our relationship with our local church. "I told you I loved you when I married you. If anything changes, I'll let you know." Then we motor along in our own little worlds, focusing own our own needs and plans and frustrations. We are completely self-absorbed, or just plain stupid, or both.
I Googled "10 ways to show your wife that you love her" - and I got over 553,000,000 results. Count those zeroes! That's over half a BILLION! Today, I'm going to create a different list. Here goes...
10 Ways to Show the Bride of Christ that You Love Her:
1. Go to church. Be there in the pew, on time, for Sunday morning worship. Every week. (How would your spouse feel if you just came home randomly - once this week, then maybe again next month - whenever it seemed convenient?)
2. If you can't go to church on Sunday because of sickness or some other circumstance beyond your control, touch base with your church family. Let them know you miss them and are thinking about them and that you are looking forward to being with them again soon.
3. If you have wiggly toddlers or if you're old and deaf as a rock, and you feel like going to church is a waste of time because you can't get anything out of the sermon - go to church. Trust me, those squirmy, whining toddlers, and that silver-headed lady on the back row who whispers like thunder in the middle of the sermon ("I REALLY LIKE THAT NECKTIE THE PREACHER'S WEARING TODAY!") - you are ALL a blessing to our fellowship.
4. When someone from your church says something that hurts your feelings or that offends you - go to church. Trust me, no one has been more offended or hurt by the sinful behavior of the people in your church than Jesus, yet He shows up every Sunday. Because He LOVES His bride.
5. When you have been the one who offended - the one who hurt another, or who "fell off the wagon" again into some besetting sin - go to church. You need to hear the gospel, to be reminded again of how much Jesus loves sinners. And you need to testify of that truth to your brothers and sisters, who are also struggling with sin.
Okay, I realize Numbers 1-5 sound a lot alike: Go to church. Let's shift gears a little - what do you do when you get there?
6. Sing. Even if you don't think you have a particularly good voice. Even if you can't carry a tune in a bucket. When the music leader tells everyone to stand and turn to hymn #463, stand up and SING. Sing, and sing loudly!
7. Listen with a "Yes" face. When God's Word is read or preached from the pulpit, LISTEN. Pay attention. Listen like you are hearing the words of a love letter from God, written especially for you, read directly to you. You may not understand every word, but every word is precious.
8. Pray. Pray for the people in your congregation. Pray for your elders and deacons, for your pastor, for the men and women who teach Sunday school. When the congregation prays corporately during worship, pray together with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
9. Touch somebody. A hug, a handshake, a kiss - demonstrate affection for Christ's beloved. The church is not just a spiritual body, it is a physical body - and the physical body needs physical affection.
10. Say "Thank You." The church is Jesus's precious Bride, his beloved, the apple of his eye. He has invited you to know her and love her. Say "Thank you" to Jesus for the incredible privilege of entering into relationship with those whom he loves.
Two final admonitions:
One: Do not scorn the one Jesus calls precious - do not neglect the Bride that Jesus himself embraces.
Two: Go to church!
4 weeks ago